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Borders can be opened if target is met

By ILIESA TORA

Nuku’alofa – October 28, 2021: 10.55am (Nuku’alofa Times): A total of 74,147 people or 70% of the total population will need to have received both shots of the COVID-9 vaccines now available in Tonga before the borders can be re-opened.

That is the key to Tonga opening borders for international flights and sea travel to low risk countries and others who have managed to contain or manage the virus.

If the target is not met then Tonga will have to continue with the lockdowns that is currently being done here.

That started in March 2020.

Up to this week, the Ministry of Health confirmed that only 35.1% of the total population of 105,924 people have received both shots of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

That is around 37,178 people.

In a bid to improve on that the Ministry of Health is now targeting 13,738 teenagers who will need to ba vaccinated with Pfizer vaccines before the precious vaccines expire in 28 days’ time.

There are 13,783 children aged 12-17 years old in Tonga eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

Health teams are now working with schools around Tongatapu to get the students vaccinated. That is for those in schools.

Those in that age group that are out of school will need to work with their parents.

 

Important call

Dr Siale ‘Akau‘ola, Chief Executive Officer for Health, says people must get vaccinated.

He has urged parents to get their children aged 12 to 17 to get the shots.

“It is important for parents to realise that the Pfizer vaccine has a shelf life of just about four weeks,” he said.

So children aged 12 to 17-year-old need to get their first dose of Pfizer before the third week of November 2021 or they will miss out.”

He said the second dose of Pfizer would be given in December 2021 only to those that had first doses. It is an expensive vaccine that is hard to get.

At least 1,097 people aged 12-17 years old have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine since it arrived last week.

The Pfizer vaccine roll-out continues to secondary and middle schools on Tongatapu this week.

A vaccination team is in ‘Eua this week start Pfizer vaccination at schools there, before going to other islands groups next week.

Dr Sione Latu

Dr Sione Latu, Head Doctor at the Department of Internal Medicine at Vaiola Hospital and the Royal Physician to His Majesty King Tupou VI, supports Dr ‘Akau’ola’s call.

“I am in full support of the target population of 18 and below to get their vaccinations,” he said on a video used to promote the vaccination program.

“The international borders can’t be closed forever. The hope is that if the vaccination rates are high enough that international travel is able to resume.

“I want to encourage the youths to get vaccinated to not only protect yourself but also society at large.”

Dr Latu has received the double dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine himself.

“A big reason why I got vaccinated is to protect myself and to reduce an outbreak of COVID-19 in Tonga,” he said.

“If a large portion of the people are vaccinated there will be less risk of an outbreak in Tonga.”

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that around 28 percent of Tonga’s population is not yet eligible for the vaccines.

These are mostly infants and children under-12.

The Ministry is also calling on those who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine but have not done their second shot to get that done as quickly as possible.

Tonga still free

Tonga is one of only six countries in the world that

Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue and Cook Islands are the Pacific countries that have no reported cases of COVID-19.

Other countries that are currently free of the virus are North Korea, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena and Turkmenistan.

Around the globe, the number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed more than 240 million cases and nearly 5 million deaths, thanks to spread of the delta variant. Countries and territories are seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases, from Asia to Europe, from the United States to Brazil, new waves have worsened conditions than when the pandemic initially hit.

Recently there have been new cases in Auckland and parts of the North Island of New Zealand plus some parts of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.

Fiji has managed to raise its vaccination numbers and so managed the virus. Its borders will be opened on November 11 to international flights.

 

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